Willmot Retires As WEG Chairman

Published: August 1, 2012 05:52 pm EDT

Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) today announced the retirement of David S. Willmot as the Company's Chairman of the Board.

James J. Lawson has been elected Chairman.

Willmot was first elected to the WEG Board in 1984. He served as President & CEO of the Company from 1995 to 2010 and had been Chairman since 2001.

He led the repositioning of WEG, a not-for-profit corporation, around the objective of operating a multi-dimensional entertainment business, committed to maximizing financial performance in order to achieve the highest quality of horse racing.

To that end, the Company has invested approximately $385 million over the past 15 years improving its on-track and off-track customer experience and amenities, implementing industry-leading new broadcasting and wagering technologies and investing in its racetrack facilities and racing products to ensure that they are the very best for local and visiting horsepeople.

In addition to the many other successes during Willmot's tenure, wagering on Woodbine and Mohawk races across North America and around the world grew significantly and Woodbine played host to both the Breeders' Cup and Breeders Crown championships; the only racetrack to have hosted both.

Beyond Willmot's leadership roles at WEG, he has also served on the boards of multiple industry organizations including Breeders' Cup, International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities (IFHA), Thoroughbred Racing Association (TRA), Harness Tracks of America (HTA), Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA), the Jockey Club of Canada, the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (CTHS) to name a few.

His contributions have been widely recognized across the industry by way of his induction in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and with many industry awards including the Jockey Club of Canada's E.P. Taylor Award of Merit; the HTA's Messenger Award, the highest honour bestowed by the Association of 41 US and Canadian harness tracks; the John W. Galbreath Award for Outstanding Entrepreneurship in the Equine Industry and the CTHS's Mint Julep Cup for outstanding contribution.

"The Board and management of WEG are fortunate to have benefited from David's vision and commitment to the success of our company and the unfailing passion and integrity which have characterized David's leadership," commented Lawson. "David oversaw the transformation of WEG into an internationally admired and respected horse racing and entertainment organization that is the pride of the Ontario horse racing industry."

"I am very proud of what we have accomplished at WEG and I appreciate so much the assistance and support of our Board members, management team and all our employees over the years," stated Willmot. "When I stepped down as CEO in the summer of 2010, the Board requested that I stay on as Executive Chairman for a two year period to ensure a smooth transition. With the successful completion of our management succession over that time and with Jim Lawson agreeing to take over the Chairman's responsibilities, I am confident that WEG will continue to play a leading role in the Province's gaming strategy. I am therefore comfortable in retiring so that I may focus on my health, family and other interests."

Lawson has served as a WEG Director since 2008 and was appointed Vice Chairman in 2012. He sits on the Company's Thoroughbred Racing Committee, which he chairs, Standardbred Racing Committee, Pension & Compensation Committee and Audit Committee. Lawson is also Chairman of the Jockey Club of Canada and is active in the racing industry, both as an owner and as the manager of Jim Dandy Stable, a thoroughbred breeding and racing operation.

He is the Chief Executive Officer of Westerkirk Capital, a private investment company based in Toronto with substantial holdings in the manufacturing, real estate and hospitality industries.

"On behalf of WEG's approximately 2300 full and part time employees, I would like to thank David for his leadership over the years," stated Nick Eaves, WEG President & CEO. "He empowered all of us to play a part in building a fantastic company. His vision and determination have positioned the Company to respond to the changing landscape of horse racing and gaming in Ontario. The WEG management team and I look forward to working closely with Jim to continue this momentum."

Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) is the largest operator of horse racing in Canada and is recognized as one of the most innovative in North America. In addition to its two racetracks - Woodbine in Toronto and Mohawk in Milton, WEG operates the Champions Off-Track Wagering network, WEGZ Stadium Bar in Vaughan, ON., Turf Lounge in downtown Toronto and Greenwood Teletheatre in the Beach area of the City. Remote wagering is also available to customers through HorsePlayer Interactive (HPI), the Company's telephone and online account wagering service. WEG offers this service to all Canadian racetracks. WEG also operates HPItv, a CRTC- licensed digital television channel that broadcasts its racing product into homes across Canada.

WEG is committed to being a leader within the horse racing industry and in the communities in which it operates. The corporation has earned industry recognition, multiple awards and customer and community respect for its progressive and leading corporate responsibility agenda.




Although his roots are in the Thoroughbred industry, I cannot think of a single individual who has done more for Standardbred racing in Ontario, Canada and North America during the last half century than David Willmot. May your retirement years be blessed with good health and good fortune.

Best wishes on retirement to David Willmot from the WEG section of Ontario Racing. He boasts a vast array of accolades, trophies, and awards too numerous to mention.

The E P Taylor turf course and the closing of old Greenwood on Queen St. are items that he saw during his long tenure at WO.

No doubt, on the big days with large purses on the line, he will drop by WO to see how the plant is doing. His mature decisions made over the years will help those replacing him out among the willows that hang in green majesty at his beloved Woodbine.

When Willmot first took over the reins at WEG, given his thoroughbred background, I worried the Standardbreds might be forgotten.

The opposite was true. Under his leadership while the Thoroughbreds continued to be a world class operation, he clearly focused on making WEG's Standardbred racing a world class operation as well.

Willmot pushed hard to make sure racing got a fair shake when the slots were introduced. It's unfortunate he won't be as available as the current battle drags on.

Thanks for helping/pushing the industry along.

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